Marisha Ray’s Laudna will mark the first player character from Critical Role’s ongoing Bells Hells campaign will receive a novelized backstory from Penguin Random House.
What Doesn’t Break promises to further explore Laudna’s tumultuous relationship with Vox Machina villain Delilah Briarwood and her relatively isolated years of travel prior to meeting Laura Bailey’s Imogen Temult. Critical Role’s latest novel comes from author Cassandra Khaw, whose bibliography proves an ideal match for the fun-scary Laudna with bestselling titles including The Salt Grows Heavy and Nothing But Blackened Teeth. Much like Critical Role’s cast, Khaw also harbors a background in video games, working as a writer on titles like Falcon Age and Wasteland 3.
In the Campaign 3’s episode “Heart-to-Heartmoor”, Ray shocked fans by revealing that Laudna’s origins were rooted in one of Vox Machina’s darkest scenes at Whitestone’s Sun Tree. While Bell Hells fans were already quite fond of Laduna’s affectionately unsettling presence, this ongoing connection to a piece of Exandria’s lore added a fascinating layer to her character. Laudna and Delilah Briarwood’s complicated relationship continues to impact the events of Critical Role’s third campaign, but What Doesn’t Break will delve further into the early days of their somewhat codependent warlock/patron bond.
Fans of Critical Role’s third campaign already have a pretty firm grasp on the broad strokes of Laudna’s childhood as a simple farm girl named Matilda, with a proclivity for dolls and an unrequited crush on Whitestone Andy. However, What Doesn’t Break presents an opportunity to delve into the less explored period after Matilda’s death at the Sun Tree. Laudna indicated that she lived a forcibly nomadic life before the Bells Hells, kept company by the voice of Delilah Briarwood in her head and her horny, skeletal rat, Pâté de Rolo. Khaw and Critical Role have collaborated to flesh out a story somewhere along Laudna’s lonely road from Whitestone to Jrsusar, where she and Imogen began their adventures with Bells Hells.
Critical Role has established a precedent for successfully spinning character backstories into comics and novels, but What Doesn’t Break will serve as the first time a Bells Hells character receives such treatment. Previous novels from Critical Role’s ongoing partnership with Penguin Random House have included The Mighty Nein: The Nine Eyes of Lucien and Vox Machina origin novel Kith & Kin. Laudna’s story will add to the actual-play show’s growing bibliography, hitting bookstore shelves July 2024.